Saturday was the next episode of the Shadow Wars campaign for Hunter: The Vigil. We only had four of the five players show up for it – one was in Mexico – but we’re running this by quorum, so we play unless two or more players can’t make it.
Last episode was a spooky haunted house adventure, so I wanted to mix things up this time. I found a webpage from a Philadelphia police officer talking about finding a decapitated goat in a park, with speculation about whether it was some sort of Satanic ritual or a gang initiation. I liked the idea, even though I had used dead animals as the hook for the last episode, and decided to steal it. So, I saved a copy of the webpage and altered it to reflect Winnipeg rather than Philadelphia and printed it out. It even had a couple of pictures of the goat, lying in the snow, half-wrapped in a cardboard box, which was perfect.
I had already decided that I wanted the next adventure to take place in Assiniboine Park in the middle of winter (I’m sticking to real world dates, so the game date is the same as the real date). It was easy enough to change the place names and dates in the blog I was using, and I went looking online for a good map of the park, which again was easy to find. I also did some looking and found some pictures of the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in winter, with the bronze statues covered with snow. They looked suitably creepy, so I printed a few of those out, too.*
The story I came up with was pretty simple. A member of the Mad Cowz gang, looking to move up in the hierarchy, found a magical spell on the Internet to summon and control a demon. He was killing animals, five of them over five nights, to create a big pentagram over the park. On the sixth night, he would go to the centre of the pentagram, carve a pentacle into his chest, and call the demon. This is where things were going to go wrong, because the demon would possess the summoner, transform the body into something fierce and nasty, and take over the gang.
The goat was the last of the sacrifices, and came to the attention of the characters only because it was weird enough to get a blog mention. One other, the sacrifice of a 12-foot boa constrictor, might also have made it, but that one wasn’t discovered by the police. What that meant was that the characters, though they didn’t know it yet, had about nine hours to track things down and put a stop to them.
They did a bunch of investigation, using mundane and not-so-mundane methods, but ran afoul of a bit of GM Omniscience Clue Syndrome. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about, right? It’s when the GM, who knows the solution to the mystery, lays out what he feels are useful and sufficient clues, but the players just don’t have the context to make them fit together into something useful. In this case, the hint was a little line in the blog about the goat being the latest in a rash of animal mutilations found in the park. The players seemed to skim right over it, so I had to do a little bit of finagling to get it noticed. That started them looking for the other sites.
With the sites spotted, and the information they had picked up from the Internet and talking to a contact in the Mad Cowz, they pieced things together in time to be waiting near the cricket pitch at moonrise, when the bad guys showed up and started trying to complete the ritual. I figured it would be a cool moment to have the leader possessed and transformed in the middle of the fight, so my plan was to have him complete the rituals after two rounds of combat, transform on the third round, and take things from there. Now, the demon stats I had put together were pretty nasty, so I figured that if the demon came through, the players would probably need to flee. This is not usually a safe assumption for PCs, but I had spent some effort in setting the whole campaign up to instill the idea that real supernatural creatures were scary-tough and deadly. I gave it slightly better than even odds that, if the demon showed, the characters would run after a round or two.
They didn’t need to. One kept the other gangbangers busy with kung-fu, while another used blunt-tipped arrows to drop the summoner on the second round. They managed to put down all but one of the bad guys, disable their cars, and the doctor lost a point of Morality for carving up the summoner’s chest to make sure the pentacle couldn’t be completed. I even tried to have one of the gangbangers complete the pentacle on his leader’s chest while the leader was unconscious, but he took an arrow to the head and that plan went south, too.
So, they wrapped things up successfully and scarpered before the police showed. A successful end.
The atmosphere wasn’t as horrific as the previous adventure, featuring more combat and only a few moments of creep factor, but I wanted a bit of a change of pace to let the fighter-types in the group have a chance to steal the spotlight, and that worked well. Everyone seemed to have fun.*
And now I have some ideas for the next game. I dropped a little continuity clue in this adventure, but I’m not entirely sure the players picked up on it. That’s okay, though. It just means I can keep building the connections.
*I’m starting to think this Internet thing just might catch on. At least for researching games. Back
*Despite Clint’s terrible dice luck in the early part of the game that caused him to say he hated the system. I think it redeemed itself when he started dropping the bad guys with some truly impressive bow shots. Back